The Ritchie Family

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The Ritchie Family
Also known asHoney & The Bees
OriginPhiladelphia, United States
Years active1975–1984
Associated actsJacques Morali
MembersCassandra Wooten
Cheryl Mason-Dorman
Renee Guilory-Wearing
Past membersGwendolyn Oliver
Jacqui Smith-Lee
Theodosia 'Dodie' Draher
Ednah Holt
Vera Brown
Linda James

The Ritchie Family is an American vocal group based in Philadelphia that achieved several hits during the disco era.


The three original members were not related; the group was a creation of Jacques Morali who also formed the Village People. The group took its name from record producer Richie Rome, who added a T to the name; it originally consisted of three singers: Cassandra Ann Wooten and Gwendolyn Oliver (who eventually married musician Fred Wesley) of the girl group Honey & the Bees, and Cheryl Mason Jacks. Their manager was Jimmy Bishop, a successful Philadelphia radio personality who also managed Barbara Mason. Morali remembered Wooten and Oliver had done some session work for him, and he called them a few years later when he wanted to form a group and the Ritchie Family was born.

Their first hit single, a reworking of the 1930s song "Brazil" reached the Top 20 in the United States in 1975, and the album, also titled Brazil, sold well. The following year they released the album Arabian Nights, and with it the single "The Best Disco in Town". The song was a medley of recent disco songs linked together with an original chorus and it became a worldwide hit.

Their follow up albums Life Is Music, which followed a 1930s theme, and African Queens were only mediocre successes. Each of these four albums was a concept album featuring songs of a similar theme as suggested by each album title. Each album also featured a long medley, usually running from 15 to 20 minutes.

By 1978, the three members had been replaced by Jacqui Smith-Lee, Theodosia "Dodie" Draher and Ednah Holt. Their 1978 album, American Generation, was a slight departure from disco and more in the style of Europop, although one of the singles from it was called "I Feel Disco Good." The group abandoned the exotic and highly kitsch costumes of their earlier incarnation in favour of a more contemporary, sexually provocative style. For the next album, Bad Reputation, they brought in Victor Willis (original lead singer of Village People) joining Jacques Morali in writing the material. Holt soon departed (and formed her own group Ednah Holt and Starluv) and was replaced by lead singer Vera Brown; the group enjoyed success with "Put Your Feet To The Beat."

The Ritchie Family line-up of Brown, Smith-Lee and Draher next recorded the Give Me A Break album, which contained the hits "Give Me A Break" and "Never Be Able to Set You Free." Continuing with album releases, the next was a markedly different partnership with Jacques Fred Petrus and Mauro Malavasi, the pair behind Change. The album they recorded was I'll Do My Best For You Baby; following that was All Night All Right (1983). By this time, Dodie Draher had left the group and newcomer Linda James took over her spot.

In 1980, they joined Village People for the movie Can't Stop the Music. The film was a resounding failure and still appears on many critics' "worst ever" lists; however, the soundtrack album sold well in some parts of the world. Disco music had peaked in major territories such as the USA.

Also in 1980, Wooten and Mason-Jacks sang background vocals on John Lennon's final album, Double Fantasy.

After deciding to split, when group owner Jacques Morali discovered he had AIDS, the group continued as Vera Brown and the Rich Girls for one song called "Too Much Too Fast" that failed completely. Vera Brown has reformed The Ritchie Family, with Dodie Draher and Jacqui Smith-Lee, but without further releases. With original members Wooten, Mason-Jacks and Oliver, the group achieved its highest grossing sales.

Original members Cassandra Wooten, Cheryl Mason-Dorman and new member Renee Guilory-Wearing have reformed the group and are now touring. The Ritchie Family is featured in Jim Arena's book First Ladies of Disco, released in June 2013.[1] In July 2016, The Ritchie Family released a single "Ice" on Martha Wash's Purple Rose recording label.[2] The song was later remixed and released as a maxi-single of six tracks.[3]

Members timeline[edit]

1975–78 1978–79 1979–82 1982–84
Gwendolyn Oliver Jacqui Smith-Lee Jacqui Smith-Lee Jacqui Smith-Lee
Cassandra Ann Wooten Theodosia 'Dodie' Draher Theodosia 'Dodie' Draher Linda James
Cheryl Mason Jacks Ednah Holt Vera Brown Vera Brown


Studio albums[edit]

Year Title Peak chart positions Certifications Record label

1975 Brazil 53 26 36 20th Century
1976 Arabian Nights 30 23 3 7 13 17 44 Marlin
1977 Life Is Music 100 23 49 35
African Queens 164 57 66
1978 American Generation 148 78
1979 Bad Reputation 76 Casablanca
1980 Give Me a Break
1981 I'll Do My Best 203 36 RCA Victor
1983 All Night All Right
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Compilation albums[edit]

  • Greatest Hits (1990, Unidisc)
  • The Best Disco in Town: The Best of the Ritchie Family (1994, Hot Productions)


Year Title Peak chart positions Album


1975 "Brazil" 11 13 1 65 9 47 25 41 Brazil
"Peanut Vendor" / "Frenesi" (medley) 4
"I Want to Dance with You (Dance with Me)" 84 74 18 80
1976 "The Best Disco in Town" [A] 17 12 1 3 15 22 2 10 13 10 Arabian Nights
1977 "Life Is Music" 102 74 8 55 50 50 Life Is Music
"Lady Luck"
"Disco Blues"
"Quiet Village" 68 1 African Queens
"African Queens"
"Summer Dance"
1978 "American Generation" 19 28 8 49 American Generation
"I Feel Disco Good" 26
"Music Man"
1979 "It's a Man's World" Bad Reputation
"Put Your Feet to the Beat" 14
"Where Are the Men"
1980 "Give Me a Break" 80 25 91 15 17 Give Me a Break
"All My Love"
"I'll Never Be Able to Set You Free"
1982 "I'll Do My Best (For You Baby)" 27 17 I'll Do My Best
1983 "All Night All Right" 77 All Night All Right
1987 "The Best Disco in Town (Original Remix 87)" 93 Non-album single
2016 "Ice" 40
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.
  • A "The Best Disco in Town" also charted at No. 4 on the Disco Action chart as part of all tracks from the album Arabian Nights.



  1. ^ James Arena. "First Ladies of Disco: 29 Stars Discuss the Era and Their Singing Careers". Retrieved 2014-03-20.
  2. ^ Ice - Single by The Ritchie Family on Apple Music - iTunes. iTunes. Retrieved on January 29, 2019
  3. ^ Ice Remixes by The Ritchie Family on Apple Music - iTunes. iTunes. Retrieved on January 29, 2019
  4. ^ a b c d e "US Charts > The Ritchie Family". Billboard. Retrieved 2015-03-14.
  5. ^ a b David Kent (1993). Australian Charts Book 1970—1992. Australian Chart Book Pty Ltd, Turramurra, N.S.W. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  6. ^ a b "CAN Charts > The Ritchie Family". RPM. Retrieved 2015-03-14.
  7. ^ a b "NLD Charts > The Ritchie Family". MegaCharts. Retrieved 2015-03-14.
  8. ^ a b "NOR Charts > The Ritchie Family". VG-lista. Retrieved 2015-03-14.
  9. ^ a b "SWE Charts > The Ritchie Family". Sverigetopplistan. Retrieved 2015-03-14.
  10. ^ "CAN Certifications > The Ritchie Family". Music Canada. Retrieved 2015-03-14.
  11. ^ "GER Charts > The Ritchie Family". Media Control Charts. Retrieved 2015-03-15.
  12. ^ "UK Charts > The Ritchie Family". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 2015-03-15.

External links[edit]